One would assume the way one might tell a story, or describe an idea, is the same way you would write it.
It’s such a mental leap to realize the way you tell a story is to show, by walking through the world/situation you created, that the new writers tell without realizing the error.
And really, can you blame them? Writing something good takes a shit ton of practice, and world building is a skill high on the totem pole of difficulty. So why wouldn’t they just think you can dump the way the world works on the reader’s head? It seems easy. It seems economical.
And it doesn’t help that things like Star Wars have opening title crawls that might also instill in the head of a rookie writer they can just tell, in a short burst, all the relevant world details at once.
But of course, Star Wars doesn’t actually do that. The text crawl gives a lot of exposition sure—but they then show you the validity of the information. You know the Empire is evil because they look like Nazi soldiers and kill Luke’s family. You know it’s in another galaxy because they have spaceships and lasers.
Showing, not telling.
The oldest bit of advice in the playbook. The sometimes contested concept.
But if you’re going to break rules, you better have a damn good reason. And even then make sure you’re not just being lazy about your creation.
Because it is easy to just tell.
Telling is saying the world is inside a bubble. Showing is having a character spend time looking out a window and marveling at the bubble. Seeing it. An outsider questioning it, looking at its parts. That’s showing.
And showing is the best way to do most things even for reasons some might not get right away. Like, when I started out, my stories were…well: too short. Telling is economical—it cuts down on word count. And when you want to write an entire book, showing is not only a better choice to make your reader feel the world is real—it’s also the best way to hit the touted 50,000 word minimum it takes for a novel.
So show, don’t tell. And though if you’re new at this you may not be able to do it right away, it’s a thing worth practicing.
It’s a thing that makes a good story.